Canadian travellers rush to change planes after Boeing 737 Max 8 crash
A horrific Ethiopian Airlines crash that resulted in the deaths of 157 people from 35 different nations is raising concerns this week among flyers around the world—particularly in countries like Canada, where major carriers Air Canada and WestJet refuse to stop flying the exact same type of plane involved in Sunday's mass tragedy.
At least 27 international airlines have now grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in response to the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy, which saw such a plane bound for Kenya crash just six minutes after takeoff, killing everyone on board.
As of Tuesday morning, Boeing 737 aircrafts had also been flat-out suspended from entering French, German, Australian, British, Irish, Polish, Belgian, Dutch, Austrian, Italian, Singaporean, Malaysian or Omani airspace.
These measures, while swift and strict, aren't being seen as overblown, given that Sunday's was the second fatal crash in just five months involving the popular Boeing model.
A Boeing 737 Max 8 went down similarly on October 29 within moments of taking off from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, killing all 189 Lion Air passengers and crew aboard the plane.
Boeing itself maintains that the jet is safe, but concerns remain among experts over its safety features and flight control system.
Good morning @AirCanada I am travelling from Toronto to San Francisco next month and the plane I am supposed to be travelling in is a Boeing 737. Many countries have forbidden its use after the latest plane crash. Will I have to travel in that plane or will you be changing it?— Arancha (@Arancheeetah) March 12, 2019
A New York Times analysis published this week shows that Max 8 planes are currently used for around 8,500 flights per week on average, the most popular routes being in China and North America.
Air Canada is tied with American Airlines for the second-highest number of 737 Max 8s in the world with 24 in their fleets, preceded only by Southwest Airlines.
WestJet, another popular Canadian carrier, ties with India's SpiceJet for sixth place. Both have 13 of the increasingly-scrutinized plane models within their fleets.
China has grounded every Max 8 to be found within the country, but, despite hosting some of the busiest routes serviced by this same model, Canada or the U.S. have yet to follow suit.
It's making local airline passengers nervous.
Hey @AirCanada! Not to be super paranoid, but I am flying with you this week and it’s currently supposed to be a Boeing 737 Max 8. Amid the two recent tragedies and safety concerns involving that aircraft, I’m wondering what is being done?— Alicia (@604fashionista) March 10, 2019
Both Air Canada and Westjet are being inundated with queries on Twitter as to why they're still running the problematic jets.
@AirCanada . More countries have grounded the #BOEING737MAX8. Yet you are still flying these planes w/ absolute no help to customers who want to cancel/change their flights . Is customer safety not your priority? Or is it profits? Ground them till @Boeing figure the problems out!— Anita Dramowicz (@AnitaIpDramowic) March 12, 2019
Some passengers hope that the airlines will allow them to switch or delay flights in light of Sunday's disaster, which took the lives of 18 Canadians.
I wonder how long it'll take @AirCanada @WestJet to waive cancel/change fees for flights on #737MAX8 I've got two coming up soon and honestly wondering if there's a serious problem with this plane! #yyc— Jay Donovan (@jaypdonovan) March 11, 2019
Some have even managed to get their flights changed for no additional cost.
I called today and changed my flight this week on 737max at no charge and the agent said many people have switched planes and AC is not changing.— BodyBreak (@bodybreak) March 11, 2019
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said on Monday afternoon that he himself would board a Boeing 737 Max 8 right now and that Canada was not considering an airspace plan.
"This plane has millions of miles of flying," he commented. "If I had to fly somewhere on that type of aircraft today, I would."
On Tuesday, amidst growing pressure, Garneau issued a statement saying that he'd cancelled all of his meetings and public events for the day "in order to meet with my Civil Aviation Expert Panel."
"All evidence is being evaluated in real time and we're considering all potential actions," he said on Twitter.
WestJet and Air Canada both maintain through their respective social media channels that they are continuing to fly Max 8 jets.
"We have extensive analytical data supporting the safety of these aircraft, which have also performed excellently from reliability and customer satisfaction perspective," said the latter in a statement on Monday.
"We continue to monitor the situation and based on current information, and recommendations by government safety regulators, including Transport Canada, the FAA, and the manufacturer, we continue to operate our normal B737 schedule."
WestJet remains confident in the safety of our Boeing 737 fleet including our 13 MAX-8 aircraft first introduced in 2017. WestJet has flown five different variants of the Boeing 737 since 1996, and the fleet currently operates around 450 safe daily B737 departures.— WestJet (@WestJet) March 12, 2019
Interestingly enough, Air Canada did announce this afternoon that it had cancelled some flights bound for London, England on Tuesday and Wednesday, but only due to the U.K.'s civil aviation authority banning all Boeing 737s from their airspace.
At press time, a total of 108 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircrafts were in flight across the world, 13 of them coming into or out of Toronto's Pearson International Airport.
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